ACtion Magazine - June 2015 - (Page 10)

W Fatigued driving and the law hile commercial truck drivers are commonly blamed for crashes caused by tired driving, the problem is a much more wide spread one. Research done by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety shows that more than one in five fatal crashes involve driver fatigue. Many readers know about the fatal crash in New Jersey between a truck and a bus in which comedian Tracy Morgan was a passenger. How does driver fatigue compare to driving under the influence of alcohol? Driving after 17 to 18 hours of being awake is as harmful as driving with a blood alcohol level of .05%; and after 20 hours, you are performing at the same level as a person with a blood alcohol level of .08%. A study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety shows that a person who sleeps six to seven hours a day is twice as likely to be involved in a crash as the person who sleeps at least eight hours. Sleeping less than five hours increases that risk of being involved in a crash to four times more likely than the person who sleeps at least eight hours. The legislatures in a number of states have either adopted laws or introduced bills related to drowsy driving. Under Florida's "Ronshay Dugans Act," the first week of September each year is "Drowsy Driving Prevention Week" when governmental agencies are to educate law enforcement and the public about the dangers of fatigue while driving a motor vehicle. Texas has a similar law which is in effect dur- ing the week of November 6 through November 12. Two states in which fatigued driving can become a criminal offense when the driver is involved in a fatal accident are Arkansas and New Jersey. In Arkansas, fatigued driving is treated as an offense under negligent homicide, where the driver in a fatal accident had " ...driving while fatigued can be just as dangerous as driving while intoxicated... been without sleep for twenty-four consecutive hours before the accident. New Jersey has adopted a similar law referred to as "Maggie's Law"; a law adopted in 2003 in response to the death of Maggie McDonnell who died as the result of a head-on accident where the other driver had been awake for thirty hours. Under New Jersey law, a criminal homicide constitutes vehicular homicide when the death of another person in an accident is caused by a person driving a motor vehicle recklessly. And under Maggie's Law, proof that a person fell asleep while driving or was driving after having been without sleep for a period in excess of twenty-four consecutive hours has been equated with a driver being under the influence of alcohol and in either instance may give rise to an inference that the person was driving recklessly. However, a jury is still free to reject that Keith Leonard, Esquire inference, which in turn will effectively render a defendant not guilty of vehicular homicide. A practical problem arises however in establishing beyond a reasonable doubt (the evidentiary burden of proof that has to be met to convict a defendant in a criminal case) that the driver in a fatal accident was awake for more than twenty-four consecutive hours. Certainly a defendant can admit, either by confession or by documentation (a commercial driver's log book) that he/she had been awake for more than twenty-four hours before an accident involving a fatality. Similarly, another person can testify that the driver was awake for more than the statutorily prescribed time period. Absent such evidence, a prosecutor will otherwise have an almost impossible case to prove. There is currently an objective measurement and an established device in place to establish when a person is deemed to be under the influence of alcohol - when a person's blood alcohol level is equal to or greater than 0.08%. However, while there are various methodologies that have been created and used to measure a person's level of fatigue, none of them is specifically tied to the number of hours that a person was awake before being measured for fatigue. Thus, prosecutors in New Jersey will likely have to rely on circumstantial evidence if they wish to charge a person under Maggie's Law. It will therefore remain a matter of self-policing by drivers as to when they should pull off the road and get some sleep. Remember that driving while fatigued can be just as dangerous as driving while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs. ❆ Remember that laws are constantly changing and are often not uniform throughout the United States. Do not place unqualified reliance on the information in this article. Always contact legal counsel for detailed advice. If you have a particular issue, law or problem you would like to see addressed in a future column, please contact me at KLeonard@LeonardSciolla. com, or Leonard, Sciolla, Hutchison, Leonard & Tinari, LLP, 215-567-1530. 10 ACTION * June 2015

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of ACtion Magazine - June 2015

The Heat is On
A/C Diagnostics and Troubleshooting
Service Port
Leonard's Law
Virtual View
Heavy Duty and Off Road
Last Watch
Member Profile
Cooling Corner
Industry News
Association News
New Products and Services

ACtion Magazine - June 2015